The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
EA's first foray on the Wii hardcourt is the Richie Tenenbaum of tennis games. Like the volatile child phenom from The Royal Tenenbaums, Grand Slam Tennis shows moments of brilliance, but inconsistent gameplay leads to mild frustration, which eventually boils into on-court temper tantrums and full-blown meltdowns.
The disgruntlement stems from the game's sporadic controls. The concept is simple: As you mimic forehands and backhands with the Wii remote, the game reads the speed and timing of your swing and the controller's angle to determine the shot's pace and the type of spin. Depending on the angle, you can hit a flat groundstroke, slice the ball, or use topspin. Your swing almost always results in contact, but how and where you hit the ball is a game of chance. Swinging early frequently drives the ball cross-court, but I never found a sweet spot for driving a passing shot down the sideline or using the intended English.
The Wii MotionPlus-enhanced control also presents its share of problems. While it mimics your racket moves well when you start a match, it suffers unpredictable disruptions over time, resulting in your player holding the racket awkwardly away from his or her body between shots and swinging a backhand when your ideal shot is obviously a forehand. When you're fighting for every point against legends like Pete Sampras, rage is hard to avoid. We tried several remotes on multiple systems, and the problem always arose during extended play sessions.
With the standard control scheme, players have no control over movement once the ball is in play, which creates another level of frustration. Players have trouble setting up for a shot, often over-pursuing, which forces you to adjust on the fly just to get the racket on the ball. Plugging in the nunchuk gives you control, but you might strangle yourself with the cord while trying to serve the ball, and hitting groundstrokes with a cord attached is awkward.
The Grand Slam Tennis career mode is short, featuring only the four major tournaments, but EA extends the experience with exhibition matches and minigames to give your created player more chances to improve. Players earn skill stars by hitting winners, so even if you lose a few matches early in your career you can still upgrade your player. By defeating a pro like Pete Sampras, you can unlock his special ability and add it to your repertoire. This creative approach to character development works quite well, encouraging you to gamble on big shots in hopes of upgrading faster. Players can also take on friends online, track burned calories with fitness challenges, or enjoy the dozen Tennis Party minigames.
While the Grand Slam Tennis controls don't have the chops to hang with the likes of Federer or Sharapova, the game is a definite upgrade for casual gamers who want a deeper tennis experience than Wii Sports.
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Even with Wii MotionPlus, Grand Slam Tennis isn't as precise as it needs to be. Nintendo's new peripheral makes a difference for shot placement and the application of spin on said shot, but it doesn't mend this game's inability to correctly interpret your motions every time. One minute, the game has a firm grasp on my play style. I painted lines and made Nadal look like a fool. The next minute, my character looked like he lost his vision mid-match. My swings and envisioned placement of the ball were not being read as intended. The AI controlling your player's movements is also spotty. When this game works, it can be a lot of fun, not to mention a full-blown workout for people who take full swings like I do (the game even keeps track of calories burned). When this game isn't capturing your intent, you'll likely channel John McEnroe for a tantrum. Grand Slam Tennis is a more enjoyable and complete tennis experience than Wii Sports' offering, but take that with a grain of salt. Neither delivers a truly satisfying or skill-laden game of tennis.